Archive for the ‘BUSINESS PRACTICES’ Category

U.S. Senate reveals major banks had‘unfair advantage’ in global commodities business

Friday, November 21st, 2014

u-s-senate-reveals-top-banks-unfair-advantage-in-physical-commodities-business image wall st sign

A two-year probe into U.S. Senate-led into Wall Street’s top three banks’ involvement in physical commodities has concluded they exposed themselves to catastrophic financial risks, environmental disasters and potential market manipulation by investing in oil, coal and power plants.

A report published by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations say the heavy involvement of Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) in the business of storing and moving commodities like oil, aluminum, uranium and copper also gives them unfair trading advantages in financial markets.

The 400-page report, which was made public on Wednesday evening, adds the lenders assumed a role of such significance in the commodities markets that it became possible for them to affect prices paid by consumers, while also securing inside information about the markets that could be used by their own traders.

Banks defend their businesses 

Bankers from Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, along with other industry executives and regulators, will testify about the allegations at hearings today and Friday. According to the Wall Street Journal, they will address several questions, including “conditions at a Goldman-owned coal mine in Colombia and the airline fuel arrangements that Morgan Stanley struck with United Airlines.”

The lenders assumed a role of such significance in the commodities markets that it became possible for them to affect prices paid by consumers, while also securing inside information about the markets that could be used by their own traders

The subcommittee also studied over 30 power plants owned by JPMorgan, as well as its copper activities and trades.

Last year, JPMorgan had to pay a $410m penalty to settle with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which accused the bank of manipulating energy markets at the expense of consumers.

You can read the full report here.  Charts and exhibits can be found here.

Henry Sapiecha


Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011


Doing business in different countries one needs to be aware of their customs, beliefs and practices if you are to be sucessful getting business there

General Information:
• South Africa is located in Southern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa.
• The capital is Pretoria (administrative capital).
• The spoken languages include IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, Afrikaans, Sepedi, English,
Setswana, Sesotho, Xitsonga.
• South Africa’s government is a republic.
• The climate is mostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast with sunny days and cool nights.
• The terrain features a vast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow
coastal plain.
• South Africa’s natural resources include gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, and natural gas.
• The official currency is the rand.


The emerging market of South America features an abundant supply of
natural resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and
transport sectors, a stock exchange that is 18th largest in the world, and a modern infrastructure that supports an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region. The economy reaped the benefits of macroeconomic stability and a global commodities boom, but began to slow in the second half of 2008 due to the global financial crisis’ impact on commodity prices and demand leading to a decline in GDP of nearly 2% in 2009. Unemployment remains high and outdated infrastructure has constrained growth while Daunting economic problems remainespecially poverty, lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups, and a shortage of public transportation.
Agricultural products include corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables, beef,
poultry, mutton, wool, and dairy products. Exports of gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, and machinery and equipment are traded to major partners including Japan, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, and the Netherlands. Commodities such as machinery and equipment, chemicals,petroleum products, scientific instruments, and foodstuffs are imported from Germany, China, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Japan.
• Greetings:
Between the same gender, a handshake is the most common form of greeting,
unless it is between family or friends, then hugs and kisses are common. With
men greeting women, or vice versa, a handshake is common, but some women
simply give a nod of acknowledgement. Allow the woman to initiate a handshake.

• Communication Style:

Depending on the cultural background, the type of communication behavior can
either be direct or indirect, and sometimes even a blend of the two. People in the city tend to be more direct than those in the rural areas. Most people do not want to argue or disagree with strangers, so they will either ignore your question or give you a non-committed answer.
Personal Space and Touching:
When speaking, people usually stand close to one another, and less than an
arm’s length of space is appropriate in many Western culture. There tends to be
a decent amount of touching of arms, shoulders and hands when interacting witha South Africans. However, business colleagues do practice giving each other the appropriate arm’s length space to avoids being uncomfortable and to fit in with the rest of the business practices abroad.
Eye Contact:
Direct eye contact is normal, but not to the point of blatantly staring. After initial eye contact is established, intermittent contact is best during conversations since overly direct eye contact may be misinterpreted as a challenge.
• Views of Time:
Punctuality is taken more seriously in business than it is in social situations.
Buses and trains tend to run on time, but meetings could start up to two hours
later than scheduled. Taking your time is an important part of the culture.
Gender Issues:
Women are generally accepted in business and it is very common for women to
work but many are still expected to run the house and look after the children. In
tribal and rural areas, foreign women are treated with greater respect than native women, but can still be expected to know very little about typical “male”
pursuits, such as sports, math or science.
• Gestures:
Thumbs up is a common gesture to say well-done or to say everything is okay.
Placing both hands together with fingers pointing up is a way to say thank you.
Beckon someone by extending the arm and waving towards yourself. Saying
“bless you” when someone sneezes is polite.

• Taboos:
Placing the thumb between the forefinger and second finger and pointing it at
someone is an obscene gesture.
Business Etiquette:
• Dress:
For men, suits or pants with a tie and jacket are acceptable in most situations.
Women should wear business suits or skirts/dresses with an appropriate top.
Clothes that are tight fitting or too revealing should be avoided. Pants are also
acceptable, and high heels are common. Presentation is often more important
than substance, so be sure to iron clothes and shine shoes since shoes are
closely watched.
• Titles and Business Cards:
It is best to address people by their professional title or Mr./Mrs followed by the
last name, and avoid using someone’s first name unless invited to do so first.
While there is no specific routine for exchanging business cards, always treat
them with respect.
Punctuality in the business environment is valued, so be sure to arrive on time
for meetings. Greet everybody in the room, starting with the senior member. This senior member will usually begin and end meetings.
• Negotiations:Remain calm during the negotiation process, and avoid interrupting the South African counterpart. Doing so will be seen as rude and over-eager. Decisions are usually made from the top, so they can take a while to be reached.
• Gift Giving:
At initial meeting, gifts are not usually exchanged. If invited to someone’s house, flowers, a bottle of high quality wine, or good chocolates are acceptable gifts to give.
Travel Information:
Visitors from most commonwealth countries including Australia and the United
Kingdom, most Western European countries, Japan, and the United States do not require visas. Upon arrival, a free entry permit will be issued, and this permit is valid for up to 90 days.
Those not entitled to an entry permit must obtain a visa which must be obtained at a South African embassy or consulate.
Any entry, whether a visa is required or not, requires at least one completely
blank page must be available in a valid passport.
For more information, visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website at

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha